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Liquidation of State Property Puts Costa Mesa Voters in Control of Fairgrounds

Whether or not the state's "fleet reduction" plan to sell 11 properties for an estimated $2 billion makes the slightest bit of fiscal sense remains to be seen (see CP&DR Blog April 29, 2010). As the state wallows in a $20 billion deficit, the most palpable impacts of the sale may fall someplace other than Sacramento, including Costa Mesa.

Wary of intensive development of the 150-acre site of the Orange County Fairgrounds, residents of the City of Costa Mesa will vote on whether to amend the city's general plan requiring voter approval for any future zoning changes or major developments. The intent of the plan is to ensure that any future, post-sale uses will remain consistent with the site's historical uses.

"City council was looking at the option to ensure that the fairgrounds would remain so in the future," said Costa Mesa Development Services Director Kimberly Brandt. "It pursued the track of amending the general plan land use description of fairgrounds to be more expansive and to better define the uses that the city wants to see there in the long term."

A yes vote would effectively maintain the property for events, equestrian uses, flea markets, concerts, and the County Fair itself, and it would prevent any major construction on the property. It would also maintain the 8,500-seat Pacific Amphitheater.

Placed on the ballot by the city council, Measure C reaffirms the city's existing general plan, which currently does not apply to the fairgrounds because they are state-owned. But the property will come under the general plan's jurisdiction once the state disposes of it.

"Even though we don't exercise land use control at this point, we do already have designation on the property," said Brandt. "With the state in the process of selling the property, should a transfer to a private property owner take place, at that time, we would be able to exert our land use authority."

Expecting to sell the property for between $96 million and $180 million, the Department of General Services received seven bids and rejected all of them in March. Outlet mall developer Craig Realty later submitted a bid of $65.5 million. However, the city has now entered into exclusive negotiations with Facilities Management West, which has bid $55 million and has vowed to operate and maintain the property as fairgrounds, in accord with Measure C and the existing general plan.

Costa Mesa officials argue that the city benefits from maintaining the status quo at the fairgrounds.

"(Measure C gives an) extra layer of comfort to the community," said Brandt. "The council is very serious about wanting to preserve the fairgrounds as a community- and county-wide resource."

As for its value as a statewide resource, Brandt did not comment on whether the potential passage of Measure C would affect the property's value. She noted that the property has always been zoned, under the city's general plan, as fairgrounds but noted that the state's request for proposals includes a clause that allows the state access to a share of the profits that might stem from a change of use.

If the measure fails, the existing general plan designation will remain in effect for the property; however, proposed changes would not require voter approval.            

 

Contacts:

Kimberly Brandt, Costa Mesa Development Services Director, (714) 754-527

OC Vote: Official Measure C Website

 

 

 

 

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